Newsom signs trans refuge law, other LGBTQ bills

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday September 30, 2022
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Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill September 29 making California a sanctuary state for trans youth and their families from other states. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office<br>
Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill September 29 making California a sanctuary state for trans youth and their families from other states. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office

As of January 1, California will become a refuge for parents and their transgender children seeking gender-affirming health care banned in their home states. Under a law set to take effect at the start of 2023, officials in the Golden State will refuse to participate in any legal action the families' home states take against them.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) gutted and amended legislation before the Assembly to introduce Senate Bill 107 in April. It makes it California policy to reject any out-of-state court judgments removing trans kids from their parents' custody because they allowed them to receive gender-affirming health care.

The bill also bars state health officials from complying with subpoenas seeking health records and any information related to such criminal cases. Public safety officers will also be instructed to make out-of-state criminal arrest warrants for such parents their lowest priority.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 107 into law Thursday evening. In a signing message, he called out those states that have passed laws "to demonize the transgender community, especially transgender youth and their parents." In contrast, California believes "in equality and acceptance," wrote Newsom in his letter to members of the state's Senate.

"We believe that no one should be prosecuted or persecuted for getting the care they need - including gender-affirming care," wrote Newsom. "Parents know what's best for their kids, and they should be able to make decisions around the health of their children without fear. We must take a stand for parental choice."

In a statement Friday, September 30, Wiener thanked Newsom for "standing with" the LGBTQ community.

"As so many states work to erase trans kids and criminalize their families, California must always have their backs," stated Wiener. "With SB 107 signed into law, California is forcefully pushing back against the anti-LGBTQ hatred spreading across parts of our nation. The rainbow wave is real, and it's coming."

State governments, such as those of Alabama, Texas, and Idaho, have adopted laws that call for prosecuting parents who allow their trans children to have gender-affirming care. Families in the Lone Star State have already found themselves being investigated by state agencies and facing the possibility of being prosecuted and seeing their trans children placed in foster care.

In Alabama, parents and physicians face being imprisoned for up to 10 years for either allowing their trans kids or providing their trans patients gender-affirming care. Both laws have been put on hold by judges as LGBTQ advocates challenge them in state and federal courts.

All eight members of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus co-authored SB 107, as did straight allies such as Assemblymembers Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), and Lori Wilson (D-Fairfield), the state's first known legislator who is the parent of a trans child. Statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California, Planned Parenthood, and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis all signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang thanked Wiener "for his commitment to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community" in a statement September 29 following the governor's signing SB 107 into law.

"While small, hateful men like Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis attack trans children and their families, Governor Newsom today made clear that California will welcome them with open arms. SB 107 officially makes California a state of refuge for trans kids and their families," stated Hoang, referring to the governors of Texas and Florida, respectively. "SB 107 will continue California's legacy of leadership in protecting and advancing the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ communities in a time when we cannot take our rights and protections for granted."

Anti-LGBTQ leaders, however, were quick to condemn both Newsom and Wiener for the legislation. Catholic League president Bill Donohue warned their "goal is to undercut the right of states to ban this form of child abuse."

Other LGBTQ bills become law

Newsom signed four other bills Thursday relating to various LGBTQ issues that EQCA had signed on to as a co-sponsor and two additional bills backed by LGBTQ groups Friday morning. One also authored by Wiener, SB 923, requires medical professionals who interact with transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex patients to receive cultural competency training, and health providers will need to create searchable online directories of their gender-affirming services.

Known as the TGI Inclusive Care Act, it builds on the state's Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund created in 2020 and allocated $13 million last year. The Office of Health Equity within the State Department of Public Health administers the fund and awards grants to organizations providing trans-inclusive health care.

"Today is a momentous day for trans-inclusive health care," stated Wiener. "California is setting groundbreaking standards that will help us create a better, more culturally competent healthcare system for trans, gender diverse and intersex people. No one should have to educate a doctor in order to get the care they need. Thank you Governor Newsom for being an ally to the TGI community."

On September 30 Newsom also signed AB 2521 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), which renames the fund as the TGI Wellness and Equity Fund. The bill from Santiago, a main champion for its creation, also calls for the health equity office to establish a community advisory committee of TGI individuals that will recommend which organizations and entities should receive funding and how much each grant should be.

Assembly Bill 2417, the Youth Bill of Rights by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), requires incarcerated youth, many of whom are LGBTQ+, to be informed of their existing rights under state and federal law and have easier access to that information.

"With the state DJJ closing, incarcerated youth can now know and defend their rights in the new system," tweeted the California Association of Student Councils, referring to the state's Division of Juvenile Justice that will be shuttered by June 30.

AB 1041 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) expands family leave provisions for workers to include their chosen family members in addition to their biological relatives, spouses and children. It aims to take into account how many LGBTQ people are estranged from their biological families and have households comprised of close friends they may need to care for during times of illness.

Friday Newsom also signed SB 951 by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) that will boost leave benefits for lower- and middle-income employees to cover more of their regular income while they take much-needed time off to care for loved ones. LGBTQ family advocates, such as the San Francisco-based Our Family Coalition, had supported the bill.

It extends increased wage replacement rates for State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave that were set to sunset at the end of the year. Under the legislation's phased increase in benefits, by 2025, workers earning less than the state's average wage could receive up to 90% of their regular wages while taking leave, noted Newsom's office.

"California families and our state as a whole are stronger when workers have the support they need to care for themselves and their loved ones," stated Newsom. "California created the first Paid Family Leave program in the nation 20 years ago, and today we're taking an important step to ensure more low-wage workers, many of them women and people of color, can access the time off they've earned while still providing for their family."

SB 1194 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) authorizes local governments in the state at either the city or county level to require, by ordinance or resolution, that public restrooms constructed within their jurisdictions be designed to serve all genders. West Hollywood city leaders had worked with Allen's office on the bill, modeled after a law they had adopted in 2014.

According to queer West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne, who co-sponsored the city's multi-stall gender neutral bathroom ordinance, the LGBTQ enclave was the first U.S. city to require bathrooms be accessible for people with disabilities who have opposite-sex caretakers, or who are transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming siblings, as well as for same-sex and single parents of the opposite sex of their children.

Last year, the city began drafting an ordinance requiring that newly built places of public accommodation and those that undergo substantial renovations incorporate multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms. But it was discovered that state building codes barred such a rule; SB 1194 removes them.

Gay West Hollywood City Councilmember John M. Erickson, Ph.D., posted to Twitter a video of himself doing a happy dance over SB 1194 becoming law.

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